Irish guide dogs for the blind is looking to recruit much needed puppy trainers in the Leinster and Munster areas.
Trainers will be allocated a puppy, and all food and veterinary costs will be covered over the duration of the training.
Speaking to Gript, advocacy and policy leader Lèan Kennedy, said dogs are fostered out to puppy raising families when they’re “about two months old”
The puppy stays with the family until they are 14 months old.
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“What the puppy raisers do is amazing”, she says
“They socialise the puppy” by bringing them out with them during their daily activities “such as using public transport, visiting shopping centres and so on”.
Kennedy says this helps the puppy to become socialised and be used to all different types of environments and learn that they “need to be obedient and listen to its handler in those situations, not to be seeking food or pestering other customers”.
Puppies must learn to be obedient on the lead and to be calm in a variety of situations and environments.
When the puppies reach 14 months they are sent to the Guide Dogs for the Blind national centre in Cork to start “a comprehensive training program”.
Kennedy says the dog will then learn how to \guide its owner around obstacles, how to identify a hazard and learn how to warn the owner when they are approaching steps or if the footpath is blocked’ etc.
Dogs also learn vital skills like being able to identify good spots to cross roads.
After this training the dog becomes a working guide or assistance dog, and is matched to an owner.
The prospective owner also undergoes a training course in order to learn how to handle their dog.
Kennedy says that volunteers should rest assured that they “will be supported every step of the way” and receive full training advice from a puppy raising supervisor, with “all veterinary and feeding costs looked after.”
She added that volunteers also get to meet other puppy raisers at classes and can discuss issues with them. This, she says, provides a “nice social aspect” to the endeavour.
Kennedy added that anyone interested in becoming a puppy trainer would be “cushioned through the process” and would be able to “make an informed decision” about whether it’s for them.
‘As a vision impaired person myself.. I wouldn’t be able to get on with my life as independently as I do without the help of a guide dog”.
“When you give your time to be a puppy raiser you are really playing such an important and essential role in helping someone with a disability – such as myself dealing with blindness, or someone with autism – to get on with their life and to overcome some of the challenges of having a disability”.
Hopeful applicants should contact [email protected] or call 021 4878200 or visit guidedogs.ie for further information.